Atlassian issues advice on how to keep your IT service desk secure... after hundreds of portals found facing the internet amid virus lockdown

Alarm sounded after orgs open up internal platforms for work-from-home staff

As companies move their staff to remote working amid the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, some IT teams have made internal platforms, such as tech support desks, face the public internet.

The hope, presumably, is that this ensures employees can easily reach these services from their homes, allowing them to raise support tickets and the like. However, organizations are leaving themselves open to mischief or worse by miscreants, we're told, because the portals are not fully secured. Strangers on the internet can create new accounts, impersonate staff, submit requests for bogus work, potentially access sensitive information, such as payroll details and documentation, and so on.

Inti De Ceukelaire of bug-bounty platform Intigriti claimed earlier this month hundreds of corporate service portals have been exposed to the internet, a 12 per cent increase since he scanned the internet for them last summer – an increase the COVID-19 crisis may have contributed to.

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"An increasing number of Atlassian Jira Service Desks have been misconfigured to be accessible for anyone to sign up," he said.

"In essence, this is nothing to worry about as service desks may have legitimate reasons to be public. However, a growing number of instances have been repurposed to serve as an internal service ticket portal, allowing attackers to impersonate employees and create legitimate internal requests.

"Verifying the legitimacy of these requests has proven to be far less convenient without offline verification channels: you can’t just walk up to your colleague and ask them about it.

As a proof of concept, De Ceukelaire targeted a set of corporate Atlassian service desk portals he found facing the internet. By simply guessing the URL of the target's service portal, for example:

He was able to create a new user account and view the now-public internal portal. That in itself would be bad enough for most companies, but it could then lead to far worse things should an attacker, now armed with a seemingly legitimate employee account, use it to then socially engineer their way into more sensitive systems and information.

De Ceukelaire said he wrote some code that went through a list of 10,000 popular domain names to check for vulnerable Atlassian portals. Of those 10,000, he found that 1,972 had Atlassian portals, and 288 of those, or around 15 per cent, allowed an outside user to create an account.

Keep in mind, this is just for Atlassian Jira service desks: companies with other providers and services could be just as vulnerable.

Speaking to The Register about his finding, De Ceukelaire said locking down a portal could be as easy as finding the right menu item in the settings, or it could be fiddly. Either way, organizations should absolutely audit their now-public-facing internal portals to determine if they are secure, and whether they can be abused by strangers on the other side of the internet.

"The fix really depends on how you use your service desk," he said, "e.g. you may associate incoming emails from external users with new user accounts, but don’t want to give them access to the portal, or you may want to give them access, but only to a few portals and not the internal ones."

Following the publication of De Ceukelaire's findings, Atlassian has issued guidelines for customers on how to secure their service desk portals. ®

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